How to get a university degree for migrant workers in Italy


Studying in a university as a migrant worker in Italy might sound like a far-fetch dream, especially for many Filipinos who have been working here as a domestic helper for a long time.

I’ve met so many people telling me how impossible it is to get in and advised me to just give up my dream because we’re seen here as “just” household helpers anyway. I think as a consequence of this attitude, we are laying the frustrations of our broken dreams on the shoulders of the younger generation of Filipinos growing up in Italy.

Is it fair to expect much from them when we, the earlier generation, did not put the foundation that they can follow their dreams and pursue so much more than just domestic work? Very few of this second-generation Filipino/Italians pursue education at a university level.

These were the thoughts I was contemplating on when my husband and I were finally able to bring our children to Italy after living here for four years. I wanted to get a university degree. Pursuing a higher education here in Europe I think is my best option for the future for several reasons.

The long work hours of a domestic job shorten the precious time I could spend with my children. While domestic jobs are still largely available compared to others jobs in Italy, the demand is already getting less. This not is not a stable job that you can depend on in the future. Most importantly, being tied to my job does not allow me to integrate properly in the Italian society, it doesn’t help me adapt to a bigger world around me. I was even struggling to teach my children their homework.

How many Italian language courses have I failed to attend because I have to put my job first? Several! The money that I earned from my job definitely helped pay for our living expenses.

But living in another country takes more than just earning money. You have to learn the language, the culture and history, its people and so much more.

I applied at the University of Bologna, the oldest university in Europe. With God’s grace and determination, I was admitted to the Second Cycle Degree Course in Sociology and Social Work. The news surprised and left people wondering in disbelief. How was I able to do it?

First start believing in hard work and perseverance. Then trust that the status quo can be broken.

I started attending classes last September. It will be a long fight because lessons are being taught in Italian, but I will try to hold on to my dream of finishing my studies here until the end. Because this dream is no longer just mine. It is a dream most Filipinos abroad had forgotten.

Education is very important for Filipinos. We believe that it is one of the weapons we could use against poverty, and it is also one of life’s greatest treasures that we can give to our children. We need to hold on to that belief, especially abroad.

Education is one of the best ways we could use to integrate and fight discrimination. Join courses, even the short ones. The Italian government and private organizations never lack short courses and training to give, and most of them are free. Never stop learning.


Some tips I could give to Filipinos who would like to get a degree in Italian university are:

Learn Italian

Try as much as possible to learn in any medium possible: online, books, music, film, getting a conversation partner, listen to conversations in public places, attend courses in Italian, etc.

Have your school documents (transcript of records and diploma) authenticated and translated in Italian

Your school records in the Philippines must be authenticated by your university and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and then the Department of Foreign Affairs. After that, you could bring it to authorized Italian translation services in Manila for legal translation. Mine was done by the Dante Alighieri Society in Makati City.

If you are a high school graduate, your documents need to be authenticated by the Department of Education in the Philippines. CHED is for the authentication of your college diploma if you are applying for the Second Cycle Degree Program (Specialization) like I did.

Get ‘Dichiarazione di Valore in loco’ (Declaration of Value from the Italian Embassy in the Philippines)

Aside from your translated school documents, you need the latest copy of your passport, permit to stay in Italy, letter of purpose, and a duly-filled out application form. This document would tell how many years of study you have and their equivalent in the Italian education system. Universities normally require 12 years of basic education to enroll in a First Cycle degree program. For the complete list of requirements click here.

Secure a Special Power of Attorney from the Philippine Embassy in Italy for your representative in the Philippines, who is processing the documents on your behalf.

Note the Call for Applications date published by the course you want to attend
You could only apply within the dates the university have announced for a certain course. Always check for updates. Details are usually posted online.

Ask for available scholarships like ER.GO
ISEU (Economic Indicator for University) is normally a requirement when applying for financial help based on your economic status. Secure one ahead of time. CAF offices, like ACLI and CGIL could help you in the computation of your economic status.

Ask questions
Universities usually have international help desks for students from other countries. Find one and ask questions.

Prepare a good Motivation Letter
This states your purpose of taking the course, what past experiences or training do you have that could help you in taking up the course, how could you convince them that you would finish the course, etc.

I hope these pointers would help you start pursuing your educational dreams. The most essential motivation however is deep inside you.

There is nothing wrong with doing menial jobs abroad, but there is also nothing wrong with finding and taking opportunities that would help you develop your talent and skills to do something more.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

About the author

elisha-gay-hidalgoElisha Gay Hidalgo was working on her thesis for her Master’s Degree when she moved to Italy to join her husband.  She was working as Nutritionist Dietitian in the Philippines and not wanting to throw away her education away, she decided to pursue a degree in the same line in Italy. Elisha blogs Notes of the Outsider ( where she writes about learning the Italian language and travel destinations in Italy.

Photos by the author

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7 Responses

  1. VIVIEN R,C,
    VIVIEN R,C, December 30, 2016 at 9:46 pm |

    Well done Elisha for striving hard to get what you wanted, Will pray for your success , Its so unselfish and intellectual of you to share your dreams and let people out there learn that everything is possible if you put an effort onto your dream.

    1. Elisha
      Elisha January 1, 2017 at 10:35 pm |

      Thank you! I am optimistic of a better future for Filipinos here. We begin one step at a time.

  2. Roel Cagape
    Roel Cagape January 12, 2017 at 11:51 pm |

    Wow, very inspiring Ms. Elisha. I cannot imagine how you were able to manage your time – work, family, studies and helping poor Filipinos in the Philippines.
    You really are the “change the world needs”, especially in the Philippiines.
    After reading your article I am inspired to pursue another degree, but this time in Australia.

    1. Elisha
      Elisha March 16, 2017 at 6:34 pm |

      Thank you Dr. Cagape. You are an inspiration to me, too. If I could do half the work you are doing, I will be very happy. You will, doc, God willing!

  3. cha
    cha March 6, 2017 at 12:40 am |

    Miss Elisha, I was inspired after I’ve read your article. I hope I can do the same, I am currently in Italy right now but I do not have a permit to stay. I am registered nurse in the Philippines I wanted to use my experience here but I do not know how. Do you have any advice that you can share because it will be difficult if I do not have a permit.

  4. Elisha
    Elisha March 16, 2017 at 6:46 pm |

    Hello cha, I would really advise you to be documented under the ” Regolarizzazione”. If you are already in Italy, you will have to wait for the ”sanitoria” to be released or ordered. If you will be documented, nursing is in demand in Italy. You could start as an assistant (OSS Operatore Socio Sanitaria) or if you will have all your documents ready you could try to have them recognized by the Ministry of Health.

  5. Kat
    Kat March 14, 2018 at 3:11 pm |

    Ciao Miss Elisha. Such an inspiring story. I’m in the same situation with Miss Cha. I’m a RN in the Philippines and I want to pursue my passion here but I dont know how to start. As of know I’m studying the italian language. Thank you for you advise.


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